By Toni Parsons
Around 150 students gathered in the Jones Lecture Hall on Monday, Jan. 28, as the School of Religion Round Table kicked off their first panel discussion of the semester.
The discussion served to raise awareness on the gateways to human trafficking, a 32 billion dollar industry that has become the largest illegal enterprise worldwide. The gateway of discussion for Monday night’s roundtable was pornography.
Among the panelists was Lee alumnus Jerry Redman, co-founder of Second Life of Chattanooga, an organization dedicated to working with victims of the rapidly increasing epidemic.
Panelists also included Brittany Smith, licensed professional counselor at the Center of Integrative Medicine in Chattanooga, and Lee University professors Chrissy Logue, Daniela C. Augustine and Skip Jenkins.
“This generation is uniquely marked with a passion to put an end to slavery, and our professors want to support you,” Augustine said as she opened the discussion.
The panelists discussed how the pornography industry is linked to sex slavery. According to Redman, the link is commonly overlooked.
“Pornography is the main way children are being trafficked,” Redman said.
A demand-driven industry, pornography is exposed to 90 percent of adolescents between the ages of 8 and 16. Often including acts of violence, the individuals in the films are frequently victims to human trafficking.
So how can individuals take action against this issue?
Unanimously, panelists agreed that the role of the church in dealing with this issue must be more prevalent. Channels of discussions must be opened in which individuals can create a community of accountability rather than keeping it an isolated issue.
“Talk about it as much as possible. Authentically and openly … talk about it,” Smith said.
In closing, Redman’s advice to college students was “that they will not let their careers drown out and muffle their commitment to justice.”
Throughout the semester, the Round Table will host three more discussions featuring the gateways to human trafficking.